Til Death Do We Part: Is the Zombie Romance Just Too Weird?
There can be a lot of clichés in YA romances: love triangles, the drop-dead gorgeous bad boy, the paranormal love-at-first-sight moment - the list goes on. Even the idea of falling in love with someone supernatural is becoming a tried-and-true trait of YA romance, with Stephanie Meyer's Twilight becoming the most commonly cited example of this kind of relationship. Vampires, werewolves and even fallen angels have swiftly changed from ghoulish creatures into total hotties, complete with supernatural six-packs.
However, despite paranormal romances becoming increasingly popular, there is one creature the spotlight seems to shy from; the zombie.
Of course, the zombie doesn't seem to be the likely romantic hero. With withering flesh, lacking communication skills, and an appetite for our brains, the zombie tends to fall short of the typical Prince Charming.
It might be a little outside your comfort zone, and just a tad stranger than your usual YA romance, but these kinds of stories can be curiously entertaining, and at times, even sweet.
The most popular zombie romance is obviously Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion's story of how R rediscovers his humanity after meeting Julie and falling for her, his zombie instincts dulled and his life changing. It's about more than just the lifeless eyes and slow movements - it's focused on what makes us human, how love can shape us. And R and Julie can be normal, taking pictures of each other, talking and sharing memories - they can be cute, and readers want them to work regardless of what he is.
Lia Habel, author of Dearly Departed, approaches the subject a little differently, drawing on political themes, and the idea that zombies are a persecuted group, feared and despised despite still retaining human qualities. Bram, a zombie soldier, falls in love with Nora, an orphan, and their relationship finds itself hinged on her willingness to see past his illness, to put hope in a seemingly hopeless future. They laugh together, share jokes and even kiss - all completely human and normal aspects of any romantic relationship. Habel creates a breed of zombie which transcend their monstrous instincts.
Clearly, zombie romances are few and far between, rarely reaching the heights of widespread popularity. After all, it does seem odd to romanticise the creatures we see in The Walking Dead, but in bestowing human qualities upon these romantic supposed monsters, the story seems to come together. No one wants a monster for a boyfriend, but if the classic story of Beauty and the Beast is anything to go by, love stories can reveal themselves in the strangest places, two hearts and minds linked before bodily attraction comes into the equation.
The zombie romance is a difficult one to get your head around, but strangely satisfying when executed just right. It may take some time to shake off those horror movies and Halloween costumes, but if you can look past those, you might just see the bleak, dark, and yet oddly sweet fairy tale beneath.